Scott Rao Roasting Workshop
Last year I was gifted a book called The Coffee Roasters Companion by Scott Rao. I initially put it to one side (ignorantly) as all other literature I had come across left me with unanswered questions - how I wished I had read it immediately!
Scott's coffee publications are available at scottrao.com
Our industry has always been rife with smoke & mirrors, techniques influenced by the subjective opinion of barista champions and equipment suppliers. Since the advent of new technology that measures how effectively we dissolve coffee (VST refractometer), we have seen the industry humbled by science, with individual opinions, weird tamping techniques and ‘must do’ old-wives tales falling by the wayside. As a result we have seen exponential growth in the quality of not only coffee, but the discussion and literature to support it.
One such pioneer who has not only embraced, but led the way with this scientific approach to coffee, is Scott Rao. Scott is one of the leading minds in our industry, lecturing and consulting worldwide. His books are based on solid, scientific facts as well as tens of thousands of cupping (coffee tasting) results, delivering complex chemistry into simple techniques and brewing guides. ‘The Coffee Roaster’s Companion’ is the only book that we have in our industry that applies the same scientific approach to roasting technique, replacing the speculative guidance from previous assumptions. I’m not sure how much the book costs, but the extensive experience he shares is priceless.
The theory contained within Scott’s book, coupled with the invaluable practical guidance from seasoned Roaster - Adrian Wogan, have been the foundation for all of my roast profiles. Roast profiles are a record of the settings (gas, air, temp etc) used in each roast and the coffee's reaction to them. They are captured in graphs and used to duplicate good results consistently. A good profile will capture the flavour from the coffee cherry's origin and be easily dissolvable when brewing. A bad profile can introduce a range of unwanted flavours like; raw and vegetal, baked and flat, or smokey flavours and can be difficult to brew.
Prufrock's usual suspects - UK Roasting Champ, Matthew Robley-Siemonsma (Left) & Uk Brewers Cup Champ Jeremy Challender (Right)
I recently took part in a roasting workshop at Prufrock with the UK Roasting Champion – Matthew Robley-Siemonsma, which was an amazing experience. So when I saw that Jeremy Challender (Newly crowned UK Brewers Cup Champ) of Prufrock was hosting another workshop with Scott Rao, I jumped at the opportunity to pick the brains of the man himself and delve deeper into his world of roast profiles and advanced roasting techniques.
Scott taking us through profile cupping analysis
It was Scott’s first workshop, having previously only shared his work through consultations or lectures. It began by cupping five different roasts and then trying to match them to profiles by their taste defects. Cupping profiles is something we do on a regular basis, but not with five different profiles(4 defective) at the same time for the same coffee, which was a hugely beneficial practice and something we will add to our sensory training.
The structure of the workshop then became very open to allow everybody to gain what they needed from the experience. Each question opened up a whole array of new subjects as we each picked his brain for every last gem! Scott handled this enthusiastic barrage of questions brilliantly and we seamlessly moved through the entire roasting process covering topics such as, sourcing, storing, green & roasted chemistry, equipment selection, roastery layout and the roast itself. It would be a little exhaustive for me to cover everything in detail (and maybe a little too geeky for a news blog!), so I will pop something into our ‘Coffee Chemistry’ blog in the future.
There was time for a few smiles and a selfie!
The workshop ended with all my questions answered and left me even more excited about the upcoming move to our new roastery. The knowledge gained has not only given me huge confidence in the way that we are roasting, but has also helped design the layout for the new roastery with some excellent suggestions about green coffee storage. All in all, the workshop was excellent….. the parma ham & burrata on sour dough for lunch at Prufrock is worth checking out too! Top marks all round, thank you Scott and all who were involved.